KAMPALA, Uganda (EP) – Yoweri K. Museveni, the leader of Uganda, says he is a born-again Christian, and promises to make every attempt to stop the violence and bloodshed in his African nation. The promise and testimony of faith came during an interview with Dan Wooding, an international Christian journalist.
“The violence will be stopped with justice – by punishing those who commit violence wrongfully,” said Museveni, who said he has no doubt that Uganda will again become “the Pearl of Africa.”
Wooding has followed the political events of Uganda and their impact on the Christian church there since the days of Idi Amin and Milton Obote, rulers who are credited with the deaths of up to one million of their countrymen.
Just days before the interview, Idi Amin had tried to slip back into Uganda, but had been detected in Zaire and, reports have stated, fled to Saudi Arabia. The government of Saudi Arabia “has not informed us” whether Amin is in that country, said Museveni, who said he is not concerned about what Amin, known as the “black Hitler of Africa,” could do once back in the country. Museveni said that, if caught, Amin would face trial in Uganda.
Museveni explained that although now he only occasionally attends church, he was once “actually a fanatic.” He told of a commitment he made to Christ at an early age and said he used to preach at Scripture Union meetings in his home town of Mbarara. “My faith is strong,” he said.
Museveni said there is now total freedom to practice faith in Uganda. Under Obote and Amin, the Christian church had to meet underground and many Christians were killed for their involvement with the church, which was seen as a subversive organization and a threat to the government. Museveni said that under his rule, the Christians “come and sing all night. They dance a little. We have to tell them to respect the rights of others.”
Museveni was interviewed during a trip to the U.S. Other Christians traveled with Museveni, including the Rev. Yona Okoth, the Angelican Archbishop, Emmanuel Cardinal K. Nsubuga, the Roman Catholic Archbishop, and Hope Kivengere, daughter of the late Bishop Festo Kivegere.
Since Museveni took office, there has been “freedom of speech and freedom of worship,” said Okoth. “The churches are completely packed every Sunday. So we do praise God for that.” The Archbishop, who fled the country in 1977, said he is grateful to still be alive. “I was supposed to die with the late Archbishop Luwum,” he said, referring to Janani Luwum, who was said to have been shot through the mouth by Amin. Other Christian leaders fled the country during the time Amin pronounced death sentences on religious leaders for allegedly being involved in a plot to bring guns into the country.
The late Kivengere, who died last year of leukemia, wrote a book entitled I Love Idi Amin about the forgiveness and love a Christian must have even for his persecutors.
“I think I love him the same,” said Okoth. “It is very difficult thing, but as a Christian, as we follow the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, we remember at the cross that He prayed that the Lord would forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. So we forgive Amin, because he did not know what he was doing.”